Stephenville Yellow Jackets beat Snyder Tigers 3-0 in regional quarterfinals
It didn’t take long for Stephenville’s boys soccer team to find its groove against Snyder in the regional quarterfinals — less than a minute, actually.
Senior Parker Plaxco scored on a cross from Dylan Cabrera in the first minute, setting the tone for the Yellow Jackets’ 3-0 win over the Tigers at Shotwell Stadium. Stephenville (20-2-1) advanced to the regional semifinals, while Snyder ends its season 18-3-2.
“They just came out fresh and found each other’s feet early,” Stephenville head coach Justin Rhodes said.
On the first possession of the game, Stephenville made a few passes before Cabrera had a run to the left of Snyder’s goal. Cabrera had a difficult angle and could have attempted a shot, but instead, he made the unselfish play.
The sophomore laid a ball perfectly to the right foot of an open Plaxco. As the senior prepared to shoot, his thought process was simple.
“Don’t screw it up,” Plaxco said.
He didn’t. Plaxco’s ball sailed right past Snyder goalkeeper Tim Henderson, giving the Yellow Jackets their quickest lead of the season.
“The adrenaline was going from the kickoff,” Plaxco said. “I was excited.”
After such a fast start, Rhodes worried that his team might go into defensive mode, but they didn’t. Though Stephenville didn’t score the rest of the half, they had several promising opportunities and dominated the time of possession.
Those opportunities turned into goals in the second half.
Cabrera scored in the 48th minute, extending the Yellow Jackets’ lead to two goals. Then, in the 65th minute, Anferny Moreno scored to make it 3-0 and put the game away.
“A lot of times when you score early against a good team, there’s a tendency to defend,” Rhodes said. “We were able to fight against the human tendency to sit in.”
The coach applauded his team’s efforts working against Snyder’s press.
“We knew they were going to come out and press us, and we were able to take advantage of that a little bit,” Rhodes said. “They’re a really good team.”
Snyder chose to open the game against the wind, and Stephenville took advantage early with Plaxco’s goal. The Tigers couldn’t cash in on several scoring chances in the second half when they had the wind on their side.
Still, head coach Max Cruz was pleased with his group’s efforts against a dominant Stephenville team.
“We did what we do every game,” Cruz said. “I’m just proud of the boys.”
Stephenville will face Midlothian Heritage in the regional tournament, which begins Friday at Northwest ISD Stadium in Fort Worth. Midlothian is 17-5-1 and beat Diamond Hill Jarvis 3-2 in the regional quarterfinals Friday.
After briefly celebrating Friday’s win, the Yellow Jackets’ focus will quickly switch to their next opponent.
“The biggest thing is that the job's not finished,” Plaxco said. “That’s what we keep saying. We have to move on to the next round.”
Even after the loss, Snyder capped the best season in a short program history. The Tigers never had made it past the area round before this year.
Snyder began its boys soccer program four years ago, when its current seniors were freshmen. As the team's eight seniors graduate from the program, they leave behind a legacy that will be impossible to replicate.
They’re going to leave a bar that’s going to be very tough to get again,” Cruz said. “Those are the kids that started the program and took us all the way to this stage.”
Carson Field is the area sports reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News. He covers primarily Big Country high school sports. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to reporternews.com.